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OBJECTIVES: The Lombardy Region, Italy, was the most severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. In absence of effective treatments and with basic hygiene measures made mandatory, Lombardy response to COVID-19 relied on its healthcare system characteristics, the administered competition or "quasi-market" model. The aim of the study was to review the strengths and weaknesses of Lombardy's response during the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, to explore whether the healthcare model influenced crisis management and describe which policies could help to contain future outbreaks. The results are expected to provide similar healthcare systems with lessons to avoid mistakes and learn from best practice. METHODS: Data for quantitative analyses on the performance of the Lombardy and Veneto Regions healthcare systems were derived from existing government sources including the Italian Civil Protection Agency and the Ministry of Health. RESULTS: Lombardian quasi-market model, traditionally characterized by a strong hospital network, was held responsible for many suboptimal outcomes. According to critics, years of disinvestments in community care resulted in a hospital overload. However, the same model was responsible for other positive outcomes which have been substantially neglected, such as the opportunity to test for effective containment treatments in a safe environment and rapidly extend the number of beds. CONCLUSIONS: The performance of a quasi-market model against public health emergencies largely depends on integration between policy-makers and balance between healthcare providers, which require clear regulation. Reducing institutional fragmentation between levels of governance, improving the coordination of healthcare facilities and adopting telemedicine technologies are means by which healthcare networks could strengthen their resilience against future outbreaks.

Original publication




Journal article


Cent Eur J Public Health

Publication Date





109 - 116


COVID-19, Italy, Lombardy, administered competition, crisis management, quasi-market systems, COVID-19, Delivery of Health Care, Disease Outbreaks, Emergencies, Humans, Italy, Public Health, SARS-CoV-2